General Crime

* Karl Bradfield Nicholas accused of stealing ballots from a San Francisco polling station is staying silent

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A man accused of stealing ballots from a San Francisco polling station last November seems determined not to get out of jail after giving the silent treatment to the judge at his sentencing hearing today. Karl Bradfield Nicholas, 51, was set to receive a one-year sentence but would likely have been set free today because of credit for time already served. Instead, he is being held for at least two additional days for a mental health examination.

The silent treatment was the latest in a series of bizarre hearings involving the case, in which Nicholas is accused of taking ballots, a voter roster, and a memory box and access key to a voting machine on Knott Court in the city’s Crocker Amazon neighborhood where he was working as a voting station inspector on Nov. 2, 2010. Nicholas was arrested on Nov. 3, and the ballots were later found in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts, prosecutors said.

He pleaded guilty in December to felony counts of tampering with voting machines and ballots, but then tried to withdraw the plea in April, but the motion was denied by Judge James Collins. Then last Tuesday — the one-year mark of his credit for time served — Nicholas was tackled by sheriff’s deputies during a hearing in which his defense attorney Stuart Blumstein had filed a motion to have him released from jail on his own recognizance.

But during the hearing, Nicholas started yelling at Collins and was taken to the ground by the deputies, according to Blumstein. The yelling “was out of character” for Nicholas, said Blumstein, who said he did not know what sparked the outburst since “he had an opportunity to get out.” Nicholas took the opposite approach today with Judge Anne Boulianne, the judge who had received his guilty plea and presided over the sentencing hearing.

He refused to acknowledge questions from Boulianne, instead staring straight ahead silently, prompting her to order him held until Wednesday, saying his actions made her “very concerned.” Blumstein said the incident with the ballots in November was a political act by Nicholas, who felt the city’s Department of Elections was cutting corners in their administering of the election.

“He was making a political statement and overreacted…but is trying to move on with his life,” Blumstein said before today’s hearing, but his client clearly had other plans. However at the hearing, Nicholas clearly had other plans. He will return to court Wednesday for the results of the mental health examination.

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